The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #49
February 2013

starIn the Spotlight:

Oscar-Nominated Film Could Help Those With Mental Illness : APA President-elect Jeffrey Lieberman remarked in CNN Health, "It has been a long time since a Hollywood movie actually seemed like it could help people suffering from mental illness, their families, and those who treat them." He praised Silver Linings Playbook for its "natural and poignant" depiction of people struggling with mental illness as they find ways to deal with their families and community. The film is an "antidote" to the stereotyped portrayals of mental illness and its treatment that have long been staples of Hollywood films such as "the single most stigmatizing film in history, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ".

La Belette Rouge writes in Tag Archive for ‘Movie Therapy’ - RX for Insight: Silver Linings Playbook : "As a therapist I am not in the habit of prescribing movies, but this is a movie that I have been prescribing with such frequency that one might think I was getting pharmaceutical company kickbacks. ... Go and see this movie and see if you see yourself at all in it. See if you tell yourself that you need to change to be loved and maybe challenge that notion. And, if you don’t that is okay too, you are still lovable—just as you are."

The Guardian published Disability in film: is cinema finally moving with the times?: "Untouchable centers on the parallels between an able-bodied but socially disadvantaged caretaker and his disabled charge. Their shared sense of exclusion renders their physical disparity immaterial. In Rust and Bone, disability liberates rather than confines – Cotillard's character becomes fully human only when she loses her legs. It hasn't always been like this. Movies have tended to show disabled people as objects of pity or even comedy, a different breed whose condition subjects them to isolation."


New Kindle book by Cathie Glenn Jennings: Laugh & Cry Movie Guide: Comedy and Drama That Entertain and Enrich--Romantic Comedy Edition
This guide shows the viewer how to use feel-good movies as a tool to shift a mood: laugh when sad, cry when needed, and be inspired to keep singing in the rain. It describes 100 romantic comedies rated by the after-view feeling: Happy, Inspired, Uplifted, and Thrilled, and cross-indexed by life changes. Exploring the riddles of why we love, who we love, and when we love, it explains how to:
1) Find movies that fit the viewer's mood;
2) Use movies as emotional yardsticks;
3) Identify which of the seven stories of love is theirs; and,
4) Run a movie club.
Cathie Glenn Jennings is a life-long movie buff who holds a certificate in Positive Psychology and the Movies.

School Psych Scholar posted under Reel Therapy: The Importance of Silence : "A topic that often comes up in my psychotherapy classes is the importance of silence within the therapeutic session. ... In the film Drive, I spotted a great example of the use of silence to create an opening for someone who wants to talk but is initially resistant. Throughout the film, Ryan Gosling’s character – simply called Driver in the credits – is what we would refer to as the strong, silent type. He doesn’t talk much, to anyone, and often you can see that his neutral presence creates a safe, comfortable space for those around him."

Fuat Ulus wrote a review about Sharon Packer's new book, Cinema's Sinister Psychiatrists: From Caligari to Hannibal : "First, accolades for her courage. Sinister psychiatrists have always intrigued us but none has ever dared to take on such a project through which their ever existing popularity would be analyzed. Second, the book is quite entertaining. It is difficult ending one chapter and not starting the next one immediately. ..." is a "free online database of information related to films, actors, actresses, directors and writers. You can search for a specific genre movie where a specific actor played, search movies by countries and sort them by genres, search by years, search by directors or writers and sort the results by genre and even more."

In Mind Matters, Alyce Duckworth posted the article, Cinema therapy; using the power of film to heal and grow :"Like many other movies in my collection, I watch it when I need to remind myself of a particular concept and ingrain it in my brain. Hoosiers has always been the go-to movie when I’m needing reassurance to trust myself. Because I am primarily a visual learner, movies have a way of affirming messages for me in a powerful way."

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die are listed om the IMDb. is a new website that allows you to download movies at no cost.

starUpcoming Workshops and Groups:

Birgit Wolz

Friday, May 3, to Sunday, May 5, 2013
Cinema Therapy - Nutzung von Filmen für den therapeutischen Prozess
Location: Berlin, Germany, Schulpsychologisches Beratungszentrum Pankow, Gleimstrasse 49
Friday, 4 - 8 PM, Saturday, 9AM  - 6 PM, Sunday, 9 AM - 4 PM
Registration options:

Fax: 011-49-(0)30-40301338
Mail: H. Bär-Wolz, Pflugstr.10/1B,  10115 Berlin, Germany

Michael Kahn

Monday, March 25, 2013, 8 AM - 5 PM
Reel to Real: Using Movies in Individual and Group Therapy
NASW International (National Association of Social Workers International Chapter)
Grafenwöhr, Germany

Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 8 AM - 5 PM
Reel Therapy: Ethical and Professional Issues for Therapists
NASW International
Grafenwöhr, Germany

Saturday, March 30 and 31, 2013, 8 AM - 5 PM
Reel Diversity: Cultural Self-Awareness as a Prerequisite to Cultural Competence
American Counseling Association-European Branch
Landstuhl, Germany

Fritz Engstrom

Monday, June 24 to Friday, August 13, 2013
Controveries and Recent Developments in Psychiatry and Mental Health: Through the Lens of Movies
30th Annual Cape Cod Summer Symposia

Esra Yazici and Nazan Aydin

Saturday, April 6 to Tuesday, April 9
A Novel Approach of Watching Movies and Conducting Therapy for Psychiatric Inpatients
Poster presentation
21st European Congress of Psychiatry
Location: Nice, France

starOnline Courses, Certification Programs:

Birgit Wolz

1. One certification program is designed for mental health professionals - click here.
2. Another, shorter, certification course can be taken by anybody (no prerequisites required) - click here.

- Upon completion of a program, students will receive a ready to be framed certificate of completion for their course of study, "Cinema Therapy."
- These programs can be completed in more than one session over a three-year period.
- Continuing education credits can be earned with either program.

The certificate programs are composed of individual courses, which can also be taken separately.

Continuing education credits are available for all courses for Psychologists (APA), MFTs & LCSWs (CA-BBS), Social Workers (ASWB) and counselors in California and other states. Click here for more information.

starOngoing Events:

Mehmet Fuat Ulus and Justin Disko

... continue to offer Movie Group Classes at the Community Counseling Center (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program), in Hermitage, PA. Program outline and film selection of the weekly meetings are available upon request.


Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. This new book uses the latest developments in brain science to analyze the storytelling intelligence and explains how story works as an archetypal teaching tool.

starNew Blogs and Websites:

Sharon Packer created the new blog, Mind over Movies : "When the 1990s became known as the “Decade of the Brain,” neuropsychiatry got serious. Psychopharmacology, neuroscience, and brain imaging pushed “armchair analysis” aside. Psychiatry moved closer to medicine. EBM (evidence-based medicine) demands proof for clinical assertions--yet our concerns are not always clinical. If we want to know how contemporary culture conceives of the mind—or of those who lose it or treat it--we can turn to the movies, to turn cinematic trends into diagnostic tools."

Another informative new blog is called Cinema-Drama Therapy.

John Briley posted, The Power of One Movie: Gandhi with Ben Kingsley : "If you’re feeling cynical, insignificant, and in need of some can-do spirit, check out Gandhi and see if it doesn’t get you off the couch and raring to make a difference in the world."


Soumita Majumdar from Bangalore, India, writes in Where movies are for therapy : "Meet Sunil Bolar, a 38-year-old patient diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder over two decades ago. When nothing was helping Bolar recover, a movie Sybil came as a relief. Reel therapy worked instantly and the results were seen in a couple of weeks. ... At the moment, Cadabam [a psychiatric hospital near Bangalore] is the only organization practicing reel therapy in a structured manner on a regular basis. 'A few days ago, we had a session with a group of residents who have recovered; we screened an animation movie—How to Train Your Dragon. The movie helped in escalating self-esteem among the patients,' said Dr. Cadabam." covers Indian independent films, film festivals and world cinema.


Cedric Wood

In his article CINEMA THERAPY ‘Parental Guidance’ a great way to learn, Wood explains: "What happens is grounded in good parenting, which causes you to think even as you are laughing. 'Use your words' is the admonition the children hear, and it sounds like good advice to me. After you see Parental Guidance, you will have the basics on good parenting."

Stephanie Cooke

Movie Review: The Sessions welcome on my movie therapy couch : "The Sessions is based on a true story – and an article written in 1990 – by a poet and journalist names Mark O’Brien. Mark was 38 at the time of this story. Because he contracted polio, he’s been left without the use of his muscles and forced to live 90% of his day, every day, inside the confines of an iron lung machine. The movie focuses on a span of time in Mark’s life when he realizes his time to experience life to the fullest is running out. What he wants most is to experience sex with a woman. He sets out on that path with help from a therapist, a friend and his priest. ..."

Alison Rowat

Joy of flicks as movie therapy proves a tonic : "WHAT joy it is when a packed cinema audience laughs as one. It is surely this that people mean when they talk about the communal pleasure of going to the pictures. Silver Linings Playbook supplies such joy in abundance. And it really shouldn't. David O Russell's picture, you see, is about mental illness, breakdowns, meltdowns, fractured lives and all that other fearfully bleak stuff. ..."

Birgit Wolz

Hope Springs

Director: David Frankel
Producers: Todd Black, Guymon Casady
Screenplay: Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Brett Rice, Jean Smart, Elisabeth Shue
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2012


Arnold Soames is a cranky, moderately successful executive and partner in an accounting firm. His wife Kay works as a clerk at Coldwater Creek, a middle-class department store. She is sweet, non-demanding, and wistful.

From the outside, the couple's life seems normal. Arnold exchanges bathroom small talk with his colleague and only friend Vince while Kay folds tops at the clothing shop talking to her colleague Eileen. At their 31st wedding anniversary dinner at home in Omaha, Kay and Arnold tell their grown children Brad and Molly proudly that they bought each other a new cable TV subscription for this occasion.

The couple's marriage has frozen into a routine. Since their children were gone, they hardly talk with each other anymore. For years they have slept in separate rooms, forgoing any physical affection. One night, Kay fluffs up her hair, puts on a pretty nightgown, and shows up in Arnold's bedroom. But he receives her overtures with bewilderment and protestations of fatigue. When she leaves, he is glad to continue to read his golf magazine.

Every morning Kay greets her husband with bacon, eggs, and a smile that turns into a disappointed look when he does not respond, because he makes it straight for the breakfast table and his newspaper. At dinnertime, she follows him around with plates of food. Every day ends with him falling asleep in his lounger in front of his golf shows on TV while Kay putters in the kitchen.

While Arnold is in denial about the state of their marriage, Kay knows that she is unhappy. After she finds a book called You Can Have The Marriage You Want by Dr. Bernie Feld in a bookstore, she decides to sign Arnold and herself up for a week of intensive marital counseling with the author in the coastal resort town in Hope Springs, Maine.

Summoning all the reserves she has left, Kay tells Arnold about her plans. But as a creature of plodding, unimaginative routine, he does not see anything wrong with their marriage that has worked quite efficiently for over three decades. Because Arnold resists going on this trip, she gets on the plane alone and waits to see if he will fill the seat beside her. Begrudgingly, Arnold joins Kay at the last minute. After their arrival, he goes along continuing to grouch and sulk every step of the way. He bitterly complains about the cost of everything related to their therapeutic journey.

In their daily counseling sessions, Dr. Feld uses gentle but insistent encouragement. He asks the couple increasingly frank questions about their feelings toward one another, their sex life, as well as their sex fantasies. Both Kay's and Arnold's pain is palpable. They admit to loneliness and anger, swap accusations, and confess disappointments as they discuss their loss of emotional intimacy and missing sex life. Kay expresses hopes and fantasies of a new start with a renewal of their wedding vows.

Arnold is stern, angry, defensive, rigidly resistant to change, and unwilling to recognize the depth of his wife's disappointment. Discouraged by her husband's recalcitrance, Kay leaves one of their sessions angry and crying. She goes to a bar where she vents to the bartender Karen and learns that nobody else in the bar is having any sex. In the meantime, Arnold visits a nautical museum to distract himself.

Back together after this crisis, the couple spends the night in the same bed for the first time in years. Kay awakes in the morning to find Arnold's arm around her. At this sign of progress, Dr. Feld suggests carefully choreographed "sexercises". Kay and Arnold make hesitant attempts at sexual intimacy on the bed of their budget motel and again in a movie theater. Because of their insecurities, their efforts lead to disastrous results. But during their following sessions, the couple understands that articulating their feelings will help them revitalize their relationship and find the spark that caused them to fall in love in the first place. Their masks are starting to disappear.

As Arnold begins to open up emotionally, Dr. Feld explains to him in an individual session how unhappy his wife is. He learns that Kay might leave him if things don't improve. Therefore he now takes the initiative to arrange a romantic dinner and a night at a luxury inn. The couple attempts to make love in front of a fireplace, but Arnold's grand design fails. At their final session, Dr. Feld tells the couple that they have made much progress and should continue with counseling at home.

But back in Omaha, old habits resume, which is disappointing for Kay. One night she tells Arnold that she offered to pet sit for her colleague Eileen for several weeks. He is concerned that this might be a first step in a break up. During the next scene, both are shown in their beds trying to sleep. After some hesitation, Arnold gets up and visits his wife in her bedroom. They tenderly embrace. The lovemaking that follows is warm, natural, and quietly passionate. When he breaks his breakfast routine the next morning, it becomes obvious that their marriage is transformed.

Like Kay had fantasized during their therapy, they renew their wedding vows on a beach. Dr. Feld and their children are present when they make promises to be more understanding and considerate of each other.

Cinema Alchemy

Molly and Don, a couple in their fifties, met and got married a few years ago. Following a short "honeymoon period" a few months after the wedding, Molly became disappointed. She said that Don was less emotionally accessible and that they hardly had sex any more. She initiated couples therapy. When they came to see me, Don seemed very uncomfortable. He doubted that counseling could help them and worried about getting blamed for their problems.

During our work, Don remained withdrawn and reluctant to express his perspective until I asked them to watch Hope Springs. I told the couple that the movie plot differs from their situation and that I wanted them to observe how they handle things better than Kay and Arnold. If they see anything they could learn from the movie couple, I would like to know about it too.

Molly started our following session saying: "I am really glad that we saw this movie. Even though Don is much kinder than Arnold, I feel like Kay sometimes. That's why I suggested therapy. It's hard for me to explain to Don how lonely I feel, but now he saw it demonstrated by Kay in the movie".

I wondered whether Don might feel blamed by Molly's remark and close down even more. But he started participating in the therapy process more then before. He smiled when he said, "I think we have a much better relationship than Kay and Arnold."

Molly agreed and said that they were not slavishly devoted to daily rituals like the movie couple. Besides, Don was more loving and affectionate than Arnold. Comparing her husband with Arnold helped her think more positively about Don. I encouraged Molly to expand on expressing her appreciation for her husband. Her high expectations prevented her from praising him before. Molly's positive comment about their relationship seemed to lift a weight from Don's shoulder. "There might be guy's out there who are even worse than I am," he joked with a smile and gave her a kiss on her cheek.

Both Molly's and Don's mood lifted significantly after this interaction. My clients learned that they previously had entered into an unhealthy dynamic. Molly's disappointed expectations and criticism of her husband triggered his desire to withdraw. More criticism followed, and subsequently more withdrawal. I pointed out how they had just reversed this dynamic. Molly was able to focus on Don's positive traits and help him to come out of his "shell" by expressing her appreciation for him.

I asked my clients whether the movie characters demonstrated anything they admired or respected. Both emphasized the courage they recognized in the characters. Don respected that Arnold went on the trip despite his resistance, and that he made a strong effort to change. He smiled again when I told him that he might have gone through a similar process at the beginning of their couples therapy. Molly admired Kay's courage to make sexual advances that were foreign to her. She expected Don to initiate sex because she believed that "this is how things are supposed to be". Now Molly was able to imagine that she could enjoy taking the initiative to start their sexual encounters. Don appeared very happy when he heard that.

My clients both appreciated the characters' commitment to the therapeutic process after Arnold's initial reluctance. Their transformation after a difficult struggle gave them hope. They started to believe that they could improve their relationship if a couple like Kay and Arnold can find their way back together. "Love requires real effort and faith", remarked Don. Molly added, "as well as wine and roses." Their relationship improved significantly.

Theoretical Contemplations

When one partner resists therapy, encouraging him or her to watch a movie in which a couple struggles with similar issues helps. This partner becomes less intimidated by the therapeutic process and is less afraid of getting blamed.

Movies can be used as a tool to improve communication in couples work. Sometimes communication between clients is strained because they try to communicate a concept that is unfamiliar to their partner or another family member. By watching a film together, both of them can enter into a more productive conversation. The film serves as a metaphor, and therefore represents feelings and ideas that a client had trouble putting into words.

Guidelines for Questions and Suggestions for for Work with Couples


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT
Loch Lomond, CA, USA